Aubia Communications

Earn a seat at the table: Public relations in business

Earning a seat at the table: Public relations in business

photo credit: Incase. via photopin cc

In January, the Aubia Communications Blog takes a look at how public relations fits into the business practices of organizations. In this first post I’ll show you ways how PR supports your business, then I’ll discuss how PR can play well with other areas, and I’ll wrap it up with my first podcast about branding yourself in business.

I walked into the conference room for the weekly staff meeting with the commander and the heads of all the support staff functions, such as finance and public works. This was my first staff meeting as the public affairs officer.

I took a seat at the table, also noticing the chairs against the walls. As I prepared my materials for the meeting, I glanced up to see all the other directors giving me strange looks. ‘Well,’ I thought, ‘they’re just not used to seeing me in their meeting.’ I returned to organizing my notes.

As it drew closer to time for the meeting to start and more directors made their way in, one of the directors, I believe he was from recreation, sat beside me. ‘You know,’ he began, ‘ your predecessor usually sat in the chairs along the wall. The table is reserved for the commander’s direct staff.’ The other directors nodded their heads in agreement. Somewhat taken aback by this, I calmly informed him that I believed public affairs was a direct staff function for the commander. He just smiled.

I wish I could end this story by saying that I stay seated at the table, but I buckled and reluctantly moved to a chair along the wall. Maybe it was a lack of confidence in my ability or maybe I didn’t want to become known as the “pot-stirrer” at my first meeting. Either way,  another director, a regular to the meetings, took my seat at the table.

Public relations in business

In the public relations industry, we’ve been saying for years now that professionals should be able to talk the language of the executives, earn our spot at the table. Looking back on that meeting, I’ve learned that unless I’m willing to expand my scope of knowledge to encompass just how public relations in business benefits the entire organization and advocate for it, I’ll always be taking a seat along the wall.

Last semester, I took an enlightening business class for my master’s degree at Syracuse University. Along with my earlier accounting and finance classes, this Strategic Management class exposed me to the business side of organizations. We dove into concepts such as competitive advantage, barriers to entry, market share, bargaining power and much more. My final project for the class was developing a business strategy for Aubia Communications. This was a tough assignment for me as I wrapped my head around new concepts I haven’t worked with before, but what I learned in the process is invaluable.

As public relations professionals, we improve our worth to an organization when we can see the big picture and how our practices help reach the overarching business goal. On the flip side, CEOs, directors, commanders, and solo and entrepreneurs benefit from working with professionals who can step outside the confines of their specialties and understand how their specific skills can enhance the overall business.

How does public relations support business?

No matter if your organization is a Fortune 500 company, a non-profit, a local small business or solopreneurship, your business strategy can benefit from public relations.

1. Strategic planning

In the government, we said the public affairs office was the eyes and ears for the commander. It is the job of public relations professionals to watch the horizon for what’s coming next and how to prepare for it. We keep a pulse on all matters of information, from Wall Street trends in investor relations to local neighborhood grumblings in community relations. By thinking and acting strategically, public relations prepares the organization for the future.

2. Exposure

The most basic business concept is that of exposure. To sell, to be successful, people have to know your product exists. Public relations is in charge of getting your story out to the audiences that matter, the consumers likely to buy from or invest in your organization.

3. Target Messaging

How your organization is perceived by the many audiences its success or failure depends on is directly proportional to your bottom line. Public relations creates the image your business needs to entice consumers through messaging that supports that image.

4. Internal Advocacy

And, we don’t stop there. If we did, God forbid, then we would enter into the warped world of spin, a truly four-letter word on this blog. It is also the duty of public relations professionals to ensure their organizations are walking the talk. Two-way communications we so fervently advocate for is more than just crafting a message to create an image. We are advisors to the C-suite, and in the best of circumstances, decision makers, on how the organization should be behaving and interacting with these audiences to create trust and creditability.

How do you use public relations in business?

These are just a few ways public relations supports business. I would love to hear how you’re using public relations in your business strategy. Are you building community on your social media platforms? Are you segmenting your customers and developing targeted messages?

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